New Jersey shuts out Pittsburgh for second consecutive game

Penguins 0-for-2 vs. Devils

Posted: Sunday, May 20, 2001

PITTSBURGH -- Zero -- the Pittsburgh Penguins' goal total for their two home playoff games against New Jersey. It's also probably the chance they have of coming back against the Devils.

Martin Brodeur shut out the Penguins in their own arena for the second consecutive game and New Jersey's top line again outshined Pittsburgh's superstars in a 5-0 victory Saturday, giving the Devils a commanding 3-1 lead in the Eastern Conference finals.

Petr Sykora scored his fourth goal of the series -- four more than Mario Lemieux and Jaromir Jagr combined -- and linemates Patrik Elias and Jason Arnott also scored as the defending champion Devils moved within a victory of returning to the Stanley Cup finals.

''We got smoked,'' Jagr said. ''We got killed.''

Brian Rafalski, a defenseman who has been more offensive than the two best scorers in hockey, also scored twice and had three goals as the Devils outscored the Penguins 8-0 in the two games in Pittsburgh.

''This is as dominating as we've ever been,'' defenseman Scott Stevens said of the Devils, who have won two Stanley Cups since 1995 and soon might be going for a third.

Game 5 will be Tuesday night in New Jersey, with a Colorado-New Jersey final possibly to follow. The Avalanche also have a 3-1 edge in the Western Conference finals, against St. Louis.

''We had a fear playing Pittsburgh here, and we knew how big a game this was for us,'' Arnott said. ''This series isn't over. We still have to have that fear at home Tuesday.''

However, the only team to rally from a 3-1 deficit in a conference final was the Devils last year against Philadelphia.

''And they weren't get blown out like we are,'' Jagr said.

Devils forward Bobby Holik came close to saying the series is over.

''I don't know how they feel, but I know how we feel. We're a hard team to beat,'' said Holik, who has shadowed the frustrated Lemieux throughout the series. ''I don't think it's a matter of what they're not doing, we're just not giving them much. We are in charge of the game.''

The Penguins hadn't been shut out in consecutive home games, even in the regular season, in their 34-year history until the last two games. Their 3-0 loss Thursday was their first playoff shutout defeat at home in 26 years.

''This is by far the best any team has played against in the playoffs,'' said Lemieux, who making his eighth postseason appearance after ending a 44-month retirement earlier this season. ''They take away the good ice and leave you with the bad ice. They're a great team.''

If Saturday was the last home games in Pittsburgh for Jagr, who likely will be traded so the Penguins can afford to sign some of their 19 unsigned players, it wasn't much of a sendoff.

''The way we played, we made them look wonderful,'' Jagr said. ''I don't know (what happened). I don't have any answers.''

Asked if thought this might be his Pittsburgh farewell, he said, ''I don't think at all. I'm just here, and trying to play here.''

Maybe not for long. Lemieux and Jagr, who have 11 NHL scoring championships between them, were reunited again on Pittsburgh's top line as the Penguins tried to find a semblance of offense to get back in a series that has been dominated for all but 6 1/2 minutes by the Devils. The Penguins won 4-2 with a quick burst of goals in Game 2, but nothing has worked for them since.

''It's not a good feeling when you look over to their bench and see some of their players laughing, see the coach laughing,'' Penguins defenseman Andrew Ference said.

Brodeur, busier than he was in New Jersey's 3-0 victory in Game 3 Thursday, may have decided it when he turned aside a brief but frantic flurry of shots early in the second period with the Devils up 1-0. The Devils took a 3-0 lead later in the period.

The Elias-Arnott-Sykora line was on the ice for every goal in a dominating effort that might have been expected of Lemieux and Jagr and has 14 goals and 17 assists in seven games. Lemieux and Jagr have two goals and six assists in the same span.

New Jersey dominated from the start, putting nine shots on goalie Johan Hedberg before Pittsburgh got its first shot, but still had to weather three Penguins power plays before scoring.

Elias finally got that goal, going to the net to screen out Hedberg and get his stick on Scott Niedermayer's shot from the top of the slot at 18:11 of the first. Rafalski made it 2-0 at 7:58 of the second with a long one-timer, and Sykora scored his eighth of the playoffs about 7 1/2 minutes later with a 35-footer from the left circle.

As fans filed out by the thousands in the final period, some booing, Arnott and Rafalski added insurance goals, with Rafalski credited with a goal that Jan Hrdina accidentally steered into his own net.

''There's a lot of negativity around here and it's probably better we're getting out of here,'' forward Kevin Stevens said, referring to the Penguins' 6-3 road playoff record. ''There's no lack of confidence once we get on the road.''

Notes: Pittsburgh has lost its last seven Game 4s. New Jersey had lost its previous two. ... Sixteen teams in NHL history have rallied from a 3-1 deficit. The Penguins have done it twice. ... Jagr doesn't have a point in the series. Lemieux has one goal in 10 games ... New Jersey has a 27-11 scoring edge and is 6-2 on the road. ... It was Brodeur's four shutout this spring and his 12th career playoff shutout, tying him for fifth place with Terry Sawchuk and Curtis Joseph. ... Penguins defenseman Darius Kasparaitis (broken foot) and Robert Lang (back) returned after missing Game 3. ... The worst loss in Penguins playoff history was 8-1 to the Islanders in 1982.



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